Volcanic cloud forces Iceland's main airport to close


Nine days after the Eyjafjoell volcano erupted into life, a change in wind direction meant that Reykjavik-Keflavik airport was forced to halt its operations for the first time as ash clouds swirled towards the capital.

Although the airport is little more than a hundred kilometres from the epicentre of the Eyjafjoell, it had previously escaped blue skies over Reykjavik, the Isavia airport authority insisted the restrictions were necessary.
"The wind has changed and brought the ashes to Reykjavik and Keflavik," Isavia spokeswoman Hjordis Gudmundsdottir told AFP.
"The main issue is the ashes in the air. You don't see them, but they are in the air, in the zone where the planes fly."

Overflights at an altitude of over 6,000 metres remain authorised, she added. Incoming flights would be rerouted to other airports in the east and north of the country.
Experts have said the volcano is losing intensity but that it is impossible to predict exactly when it will stop erupting.

"Last night there looked like there was an increase in ash for a while but now it's mostly steam as it was yesterday," a spokeswoman for Iceland's civil protection told AFP.
Eyjafjoell's eruption last Wednesday, which sent columns of ash towering into the air before being scattered across much of northern and western Europe, triggered the biggest disruption to Euro 1.3 billion euro and wants governments to pick up at least part of the cost, furious at their handling of the crisis.
Now the World Tourism Organisation says the cost to its industry is even  bigger, putting the overall losses at Euro 1.72 billion.

Without even taking into account the cost to the industry outside Europe, daily losses were about Euro 300 million, the organisation's secretary general Taleb Rifai told a news conference in Madrid.
All major airports have now reopened and the number of flights is back at  normal levels.

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